NEW YORK — After yet another flash of brilliance to begin the season—complete with Ron Baker three-point telescopes and Kristaps Porzingis one-legged fadeaways—the Knicks had once again plummeted into the darkness. A run of eight losses in nine games, culminating in a week bookended by the literal disappearance of their starting point guard and a loss at the buzzer in Philadelphia—a game in which the team had held a 10-point lead with under five minutes to play.
“You let a guy like T—what’s his name, TJ McConnell? Come down and end you? You’ve got to put yourself in a position where you can’t let that kill you,” Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn said. “And he killed us last night. That hurt us big time. Tonight, I think everybody felt that.”
In Thursday's 104-89 win over the Bulls, less than 24 hours after McConnell's game-winner, the Knicks realized the best way to cease questions about dysfunction was to change the conversation. And the same point guard who broadcasted the Knicks’ turmoil for the entire nation wound up being the one to lead them out, against his former team no less.
Derrick Rose ignited the crowd from the very beginning, scoring 15 of his 17 points in the first half with the jumper and on the drive. He brought the arena to its loudest in the closing seconds of the second quarter, calling his own number and scoring an and-one basket around Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade on a dive to the rim. After a few days on shaky ground, Rose played comfortably and confidently.
“We were desperate to win,” Rose said.
The indigestion from a loss to the Sixers combined with the Rose-Noah revenge narrative was enough to push the Knicks to perform on Thursday, but it’s not entirely clear where the team stands now. On top of that, the Bulls may have done more to lose than New York did to win. Chicago, down Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic, mixed 39.8% shooting with unappetizing defense throughout the course of the game.
The Knicks’ disorganization on offense and constant lapses on defense—New York ranks 25th in defensive efficiency—will not magically disappear with just one win. Joakim Noah has posted more unsightly stat lines this season than impressive ones, and has yet to prove he is anywhere worth the lucrative deal he inked before the season. Porzingis has battled soreness in his Achilles on multiple occasions. After a breakout season, Lance Thomas has fumbled a steady load of minutes.
The Knicks must address their score of problems, but after these 48 hours spent between Philadelphia and New York, the team at least appears to be past the chaos that began the week. Moreso, the Knicks seem to feel something. The loss in Philadelphia was a gut punch, one Noah called “embarrassing,” the image of McConnell’s leaping fist-pump and Joel Embiid’spostgame dance performance stinging like soap in the eyes.
This may not be a good team, or a bad team, but it is undeniably a dynamic one. The key for the Knicks is taking a win and stretching out the positivity as long as possible. It’s something they did earlier in the season after a win over Minnesota, and something they have the opportunity to do once again.